Posts Tagged ‘Scotland

22
Jul
21

Brows and blows

After a busy few months Tania and I wanted to get away for a few days. So we made a plan. First stop Bempton to see the Black-browed Albatross. I’d seen the Sula Sgeir bird a decade or more ago but how could you say no to an Albatross in British waters. You just ‘have’ to go and see it. They are the bees knees of seabirds. A thought not shared by the Gannets who didn’t take to their larger cousin at all. He ousted a few off the cliffs to crash land among them. Tania had great views of the bird as she looked down on the bird circling below her.

First part of the plan completed we thought we’d carry on North and visit Kinghorn. Now this is the second time this year I’ve called at this pretty village just over the Forth from Edinburgh. I paid a visit at the end of May. The idea then was to see if the guests on the UK Mammal Tour could add Sei Whale to their lists. Despite it’s rarity in UK waters there had been one kicking around in the Firth of Forth for a few weeks. Sadly it wasn’t to be as the whale didn’t play ball. However, Tania and I thought it would be worth a revisit this week as the Sei Whale was still being seen with some regularity. It took some time, but eventually the third largest animal on the planet graced us with a ‘swim-past’. In fact two; once going up river and then a second as it returned East. Thanks to Ronnie Mackie for his invaluable help and great company in seeking out this addition to our British mammal list. The last time I saw one of these creatures it was amid the clear waters of a Chilean Fjord on the day Tania and I first met; a long way from a small seaside town on the East coast of Scotland.

07
Oct
19

A February Tour

Please take a look at the link it’s a good value excellent tour – https://mailchi.mp/0b88d9aef72b/southern-scotland-in-early-spring-1977393

06
May
19

Sitting Tight

On the Scottish Tour I ran earlier this month we found a rather scruffy moulting Mountain Hare. At first given his apparent ear length I thought he was a Brown Hare. However he was on a pasture aside a rough upland moor and was standing his ground but as I got a closer he got a little edgy and went around the other side of a drumlin. As he did so he showed his pure white tail that lacks the dark streak of the Brown Hares we often see in Norfolk. His darkening pelage is a far cry from the all white beasts Tania and I photographed up in Scotland during January. Sadly the numbers of Mountain Hares are now much depleted from when I first started running the trips to Scotland 11 years ago.

Next years tours to Scotland in April are now advertised. Two trips to choose from. Details are here and here

01
May
19

Snowbie

On the Scottish Tour earlier this month one of the several key species we aim to see is Snow Bunting. They breed high in the Scottish mountains so their plumage is far different from the somewhat drab wintering birds we see in Norfolk. We found this skulking male in among a rock wall sheltering from the wind.

Next years tours to Scotland in April are now advertised. Two trips to choose from. Details are here and here

15
Mar
19

Swapping Continents

I arrived in Australia a couple of days after finishing the Southern Scotland Tour at the beginning of March. Having recovered from a bout of food poisoning acquired on the Cathay Pacific flight one of the first places Tania and I visited was the Werribee treatment plant. What a wonderful place for birds it is. For those that have never been imagine Titchwell RSPB … on steroids. It does however have the downfall of being wrapped up in colonial administration worthy of a banana republic. It reminded me of visiting a shrimp farm in Gambia thirty odd years ago when I had to offer everything I owned short of a pint of blood before I was allowed to enter. Anyways that’s a story for a different time. Having applied for a permit online to visit Werribee then travelled to pick up the gate key in a completely different location to the reserve itself, sat through a training induction for the third time in as many months, signed a disclosure document, offered up my ID and made a promise to change from my shorts into long trousers, I was on my way. … but not before being given the following parting shot by the lady administrator …. “I hope the Tufted Duck is still around for you” she said.

I had heard a Tufted Duck was floating around on one of the lagoons somewhere. Completely lost of course and way off it’s Eurasian home turf, it had even hit newspaper headlines here in Victoria. I reassured the lady that I would not be seeking any Tufted Ducks as I had in the previous few days been knee deep among them in the Scottish lowlands. I could see a moment of confusion on her face as she looked down at the Norfolk address I’d given her. I made her none the wiser as I picked up the gate key and fled the office. I can only conclude she thought Norfolk was perhaps in Scotland somewhere.

I was processing a few shots from the South Scotland Tour this week and I noticed this photo. A drake Tufted Duck, caught in the wind with a fraying hairstyle worthy of Donald Trump rather than Donald Duck. The Tuftie was sharing a pool with a rather secretive Green Winged Teal from America. It’s a small world… especially if you can fly.

Next years Southern Scotland Tour will be available for booking shortly.

12
Mar
19

Otter and otter

For the second time in as many weeks we came across a very sociable Otter on tour. This time it was north of the border on our Southern Scotland tour last weekend. Amid a flurry of Goosander we watched this enigmatic mammal catching and eating fish.

07
Jan
19

Hair of the Dog

Stumbling out of our hotel into minus seven degrees of frost took our breath away. But it didn’t take our breath away as much as climbing up the mountain through the frozen heather and snow fields. We must have seen twenty or more Mountain Hares last Wednesday on that crisp blue skied morning, but they weren’t easy to approach. As we ascended slowly up the gullies where the hares were basking in the sun the boggy ice cracked beneath our feet with the retort of a shotgun. Eventually one of these enigmatic animals hung-fast long enough to get a shot or two.

 

03
Jan
19

Hogmanay

On our way to Scotland for the New Year we called in at the Northumberland coast. Scanning the sea was a local. It wasn’t long before we struck up a conversation with him. He made the comment about us celebrating Hogmanay in Scotland; stating “They know how to do it!”.

He was right. However, it wasn’t all about Whisky, Haggis and fireworks. Amid the dark canopy of the Scots Pines in Abernethy there were a few of this helmeted little chaps about. I never tire of watching Crested Tits.

30
Dec
18

2018 – the best bits

2018 for me set off being a somewhat muted year but rapidly escalated into something as special as it gets. Finding someone special to share my life was a revelation that I didn’t expect. The downside of that is a whole planet separates us. 2019 will be spent putting that right.

One discovery for me in 2018 has been the state of Victoria in Australia. The pull of this part of such a remote continent has been extreme. It’s undulating landscape, amiable weather, compelling wildlife and of course one special inhabitant have made this the most special place I’ve ever been. Australia is just the best. My two months here within 2018 have been the most outstanding part of my personal year. Within that two months Tania has taken me to some fabulous places. Mountains, remote bushland, deep dark eucalypt forests, small islands and open wide beaches. However, one place stands out in my mind as it holds birds that have been a part of my life for so long in the UK. Rare birds. Birds that blew to the UK as waifs and strays. Birds such as Red necked Stints and Sharp tailed Sandpipers. In Victoria, Werribee has a water treatment plant holding these birds in mind boggling numbers. Numbers I could only have dreamed about. Who would have thought a sewage plant would have topped my years best bits… but it has. It even topped the Beluga in the Thames!

But what of my professional year. There have been some great times. Scilly once again was terrific, so was Wales, the Farnes were at their best and the Scottish tours were formidable. Picking the best? … well that’s easy. The 2018 Mammal Tour of the UK. Without doubt the best tour I’ve ever done. Some fabulous wildlife; Minke Whales and Dolphins of three species you could have touched. Red Squirrels, Pine Martens and Badgers at arms length. However, to single out one moment of the tour I would have to go to a small beach at the fishing port of Wick on the Scottish East coast. Reading books from being a child through to adulthood enables everyone to conjure up dreams. Bucket lists. Events to experience. Things to see, places to go. I crossed off number one on my own bucket list on that small beach last May. My guests and I experienced the sight of a Walrus in British waters. OK it’s not the cuddliest looking animal you’ll ever come across. But hell … what an animal!

Roll on 2019. Happy New Year.

27
May
18

The Mammal Tour keeps on giving

When you’ve seen one of the rarest mammals on the British list it gets difficult to better. Today however … we came close.

Having watched the sea for a while to the west of John O’Groats we decided to make our way further east. I’m always a bit wary of having one eye off the road but as we were driving a splash in the bright blue sea caught my attention. As we pulled up and I took the scopes from the boot of the car I saw the splash for sure once more. As I focused in on the animals  it was overwhelmingly obvious what they were. Risso’s Dolphins. The white scarred bodies, the shape of the head and dorsal fin were very distinctive. Five of them. One possibly a young animal.




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